Friday, June 23, 2017

Movie Review - Wonder Woman

After the obligatory slow-moving yet brief origin, Wonder Woman was a well-made faced-paced, action-packed movie.

  I went with Kathy to see the latest DC super hero movie ‘Wonder Woman’ at the local movie theater last weekend. Wonder Woman is the one of the three DC characters (along with Superman and Batman) to make it from the Golden Age of Comics in the 1940’s to the present day relatively unchanged. The character lost her superpowers and costume briefly in DC’s ‘flower child’ period of the early 70’s but was quickly restored back to her skimpy American flag based costume and was vaulted to iconic status with Lynda Carter bringing the character to life in the television show in the late 1970’s before heading back to obscurity for the next 40 or so years before being chosen as a pillar of the new DC movie universe.

  The character was revived with Carter look-alike Gal Gadot playing the character in last year’s Batman vs. Superman movie. Gadot’s part was more action oriented but there was some byplay with Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne that showed her posing as a socialite while trying to obtain information from Lex Luthor’s super computers. This was a welcome change from her previous alter-ego’s persona as the meek subservient librarian type that was very Clark Kent like without the authority that Kent garnered from being a journalist. Wonder Woman’s action skills were shown battling the super-monster Doomsday alongside Batman and Superman but the true nature of her powers weren’t evident since her part in the fight was to occupy screen time before the movie’s climactic ‘Death of Superman’ moment. The Wonder Woman involvement was a necessary introduction to this year’s solo movie and the Justice League film scheduled for later this year.

  The theater had about 50 people to see the film which was pretty impressive for a movie in its third weekend in Marshalltown. The movie won its first two weekends and is well on its way to an impressive box office number which will fall slightly short of last month’s Guardians of the Galaxy #2 but more than enough to ensure another movie in the DC rotation.

  Since the character had already been established last year I was disappointed that this film insisted on starting with an origin showing Wonder Woman as a young girl and then a teenager who wants to be a warrior but is forbidden by her mother the Queen. We spend 20 minutes learning all about how Wonder Woman was created from a piece of clay blessed by Zeus and her name is Diana and she lives in an Amazon civilization and their island is mystically hidden and all kinds of stuff that probably could have been explained in a few minutes showing Princess Diana learning to become the most fearsome Amazon Warrior of all which we end up seeing anyway.

  Finally the action gets underway when Steve Trevor (played by none other than Chris Pine aka Captain Kirk of the new Star Trek movie series) crashes a World War I German fighter plane into the hidden Amazon kingdom and is followed by a fleet of German ships. The Amazons get to show off their fighting skills which aside from hand to hand combat with swords include horseback riding with swords and spears and the ability to fire three or more arrows at once with deadly precision while doing double and triple somersaults off horses and cliffs. None of these skills prove especially effective against the few Germans that are able to get off rifle shots to wound and kill some of the Amazons.

  After finding out from Trevor using the iconic ‘lasso of truth’, the Amazons find out that the world is at war (as if there hadn’t been wars from the beginning of time) and Diana decides to accompany Trevor off the Amazon island in order to bring peace to the planet by killing Aries the God of War who she has been told is the Amazon’s sworn enemy.

  From this point on this is an excellent movie. There is the comedy of trying to dress the baddest warrior on the planet to fit into early 20th century Britain, a bit of social consciousness with Diana’s frustration at the politicians and generals who don’t take her seriously because they don’t take any women seriously, and mostly great action. After the politicians and generals decide the upcoming peace armistice is more important than Trevor’s discovery that the German super evil scientist Dr. Maru (aka Miss Poison) and General Ludendorff have concocted a lethal gas that can eat through gas masks and kill thousands instantaneously, he rounds up some flawed but adventure loving friends to go on road trip to stop General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru themselves. Along with Wonder Woman, of course.

  Our brave group of heroes makes their way to the Maginot line at the front where Wonder Woman frees a small village from German oppression by breaking through the enemy line of fortified tunnels, tanks, and machine guns with a small amount of help from her non super-powered friends. The actions scenes are great with Wonder Woman using her shield to stop mortar fire as well as destroy tanks and machine guns. Her hand-to-hand combat scenes are also excellently shot with my only quibble is the continual freezing of the action to show some dramatic action pose before resuming the action at an accelerated speed. This is fine to do once or twice but when done too often as here it makes the action hard to follow. The villagers take a picture of their liberators which is a nice tie in to Wonder Woman’s introduction to Bruce Wayne in Batman vs. Superman when she attempts to get the picture form Lex Luthor’s computer system at the same time Bruce Wayne is trying to also pilfer the computer system.

  After liberating the village, the group head to the castle where General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru are having a party to celebrate the mass production and test of their new batch of poison by destroying the very town that Wonder Woman and co. just liberated and prepares to wipe out all of London with a futuristic super plane. I don’t want to give away too much of the climactic battle but I will say that for the most part the good guys win and Aries makes a guest appearance for an epic and explosive ending.

  This was the best made superhero movie I have ever seen, The origin was dispensed with quickly and the film had a well-defined plot with none of the meandering soul-searching angst most of the other superhero movies are full of. Even though Wonder Woman leaves her Amazon community to fight we are not subjected to doubts ad recriminations – there is just a well scripted mission and action galore mixed in with a little of the ‘buddy movie’ type of character development. Gadot was a great Wonder Woman, tough without being overbearing and compassionate without being mushy. Pine as also a fine Steve Trevor. The scene where he tries to seduce the hideously disfigured Miss Poison was a classic. Elena Anaya as Miss Poison and Danny Huston as General Ludendorff were sufficiently psychopathic to make belivably menacing villains. I hope Wonder Woman remains the warrior character of the new Justice League and doesn’t settle into a background role or be some sort of den mother. Having this movie set in a period piece gives no evidence how well Wonder Woman will fit into a modern setting. The Justice League will likely showcase Batman at the expense of all the other heroes which means it might be at least three years before Wonder Woman gets into the modern age in her own movie although she may be trapped in the past like Indiana Jones for her solo adventures. This movie was a tremendous step forward for a classic character. Hopefully Warner Bros. and DC can build on it.

Up next for Wonder Woman is a role in Justice League. Here's hoping for another solo adventure soon.